Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Having set up a fall guy to take the blame in case this post goes south, I’m ready to share some thoughts on the BANGKOK DANGEROUS remake.
BANGKOK DANGEROUS (2008)
Official Site: http://www.bangkokdangerousmovie.net/
Directors: The Pang Brothers (Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat)
Cast: Nicolas Cage (Joe), Shahkrit Yamnarm (Kong), Charlie Yeung (Fon), Panward Hemmanee (Aom), Nirattisai Kaljaruek (Surat)
Synopsis (from Yahoo! Movies): The life of Joe, an anonymous assassin, takes an unexpected turn when he travels to Thailand to complete a series of contract killings. Joe, a remorseless hitman, is in Bangkok to execute four enemies of a ruthless crime boss named Surat. He hires Kong, a street punk and pickpocket, to run errands for him with the intention of covering his tracks by killing him at the end of the assignment. Strangely, Joe, the ultimate lone wolf, finds himself mentoring the young man instead whilst simultaneously being drawn into a tentative romance with a local shop girl. As he falls further under the sway of Bangkok’s intoxicating beauty, Joe begins to question his isolated existence and let down his guard–just as Surat decides it’s time to clean house.
PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS: None. This movie only popped up on my radar when the trailer for it was shown when I went to a screening of THE BANK JOB back in April. As it stars Nicolas Cage, whose recent track record is dubious at best, I was going to pass on this film but I caught a glimpse of the fabulous Charlie Yeung Choi-Lei in the trailer so I knew that I’d have to see it when it came out.
I haven’t even seen the original BANGKOK DANGEROUS. To be honest, while I have the DVD of ABNORMAL BEAUTY lying around somewhere, the only Pang Brothers movies I’ve seen are THE EYE and THE DETECTIVE. I have nothing against Danny Pang and Oxide Pang, it’s just that, as a rationalist/skeptic Scully type, I tend to stay away from ghost/supernatural movies unless the word “erotic” is somehow involved.
I’m going into the movie hoping that it will be good and that it will be a good showcase for Charlie Yeung. Yeung starred in two of my favourite Hong Kong movies from the 1990s: DOWNTOWN TORPEDOES and TASK FORCE. Sadly, the DVDs for both films are out of print but it’s worth your time to go hunting for the odd copies that may be still be sitting on a video store shelf. Between the two, TASK FORCE is definitely the one you should work harder to acquire.
AFTER THE MOVIE: Average — that’s the word that comes to mind when I think about the film. BANGKOK DANGEROUS tells an unremarkable variation of the standard, run-of-the-mill “jaded hitman is on his last job” story. It features some decent acting and is competently made though there are instances where it has that annoying herky-jerky, murky look which used to be cool but is now mostly irritating. The film is mildly entertaining but there are times when it drags along like one of those 50-episode TVB dramas that only has 30 episodes worth of plot. It’s not a bad film but I wouldn’t call it good either. Unless you are a rabid Pang Brothers fan or you can see it at a second-run theatre for $4 or less, wait until this becomes one of those 7-day rentals that you can get for a couple of bucks.
MORE THOUGHTS: Saddled with a thankless deaf-mute love interest role, Charlie Yeung does the best that she can with a ludicrous character. She does a good job of emoting without words and has some fabulous close-ups but her character (Fon) and the relationship she has with the Nicolas Cage hitman character (Joe) is so far-fetched, you not only have to suspend disbelief, you need to hire a hypnotist to temporarily disable the higher-functioning parts of your brain. As I said earlier, I went into the movie with a lot of good will for it and Charlie Yeung. I wanted to like it but from the moment Fon first interacted with Joe, I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at the improbability of the situation. To wit:
- Despite being deaf and mute, Fon readily and enthusiastically takes on customer service at her work. I think 99% of people with her physical situation would be doing behind-the-counter, non-customer service duties.
- Without a hint of hesitation, Fon agrees to go out with Joe even though he looks a little creepy and seems a little shady.
- Fon takes Joe home to meet her family yet still hasn’t asked him what he does for a living. I don’t know about you but, whenever I meet someone new in a social situation, the “what do you do with your life” question comes up within fifteen minutes.
Perhaps I’m being harsh and overly nitpicky but there is no credible core to the Fon character. Even though Charlie Yeung tries her best to breathe life into Fon, it just doesn’t work because the character is too inauthentic and too unbelievable.
SECOND THOUGHTS: I went to the movie with my friend Jay and his lovely bride Keri. As we left the theatre, I asked Jay what he thought of the film. Unequivocally, he told me that the movie stinks. When I said that I thought it was OK, he said that if I had seen the original BANGKOK DANGEROUS, I’d realize that the 2008 version is a steaming pile of poo. Intrigued by Jay’s emphatic reaction, I went to the local Blockbuster store on my way home and rented the DVD.
After watching the DVD, I have to agree with Jay. The BANGKOK DANGEROUS remake pales in comparison to the original. As Sanjuro pointed out in his LoveHKFilm review of the film, the original is a “satisfying” film experience while most people can take or leave the remake. In the original, the hitman — and not the love interest — is the one who is deaf-mute. This makes the original eminently more … uh … original and compelling than the remake.
Why would the Pang Brothers kneecap their original premise and make the questionable decision to turn the love interest into the deaf-mute? Money.
In an article that was published in the International Herald Tribune on July 13th, 2006, the following passage reveals the reason behind the change:
While the original production was made on a $400,000 budget, the budget this time has ballooned to $45 million, and Oxide Pang admits to being under pressure to make some changes to the script. The original script calls for the lead actor to play a deaf-mute hit man.
“We’d like to keep him the same, but we understand that from a marketing purpose Nic needs to have some lines,” Pang said. “So what we’re going to do is transform his girlfriend into a deaf- mute. By switching the roles, the drama of communication between two people will remain the same.”
I hate to be a Monday Morning Quarterback but the remake would have been better and, ultimately, more profitable if the Pang Brothers stuck to their artistic vision and kept the original premise. Instead of offering the 3,337th iteration of “burned out hitman looks to get out after one last job”, they could have offered mainstream Western audiences something different and unique. You can just imagine the extra buzz the film would have received from the talking heads on ET/THE INSIDER/EXTRA/ACCESS HOLLYWOOD. They all would have gushed breathlessly about how Nicolas Cage plays a deaf-mute. As the guys in TROPIC THUNDER indelicately point out, handicap roles in movies draw attention. By taking the deaf-mute aspect away from the hitman and putting it on to the love interest, the Pang Brothers ruined the hook that gives the original its spark. Instead of a potential source of commendation, it’s now a definite source of derision.
- While I have done some traveling, I pretty much live a “frog at the bottom of a well” existence. So, I have to ask: Are strip clubs in Bangkok any where near as lavish as they are depicted in the movie? The last time — actually the only time — I was in a strip club, the place smelled like stale beer and the girls were, at best, sixes. None of them were as hot as Aom and her colleagues. Some of them had more tattoos than a Japanese yakuza.
- XX vs XY: I mentioned earlier that I went to the BANGKOK DANGEROUS remake with my friend Jay and his wife Keri. Keri came along just because it was something to do. She isn’t exactly a fan of the action genre. Still, her reaction to the movie caught me off guard. When asked what she thought of the movie, this was her only response: “You know that scene in the temple? The deaf girl (Charlie Yeung) had visible panty line.”
CHINESE LESSON OF THE DAY:
井底之蛙 is a Chinese idiom used to describe someone who does has a very limited outlook. It’s derived from this Chinese fable.
Image credits: International Entertainment Group (BANGKOK DANGEROUS remake movie poster, Charlie Yeung), Film Bangkok/Pang Bros. (BANGKOK DANGEROUS original movie poster)